Heading into an offseason where many questions face the organization, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough seems ready to finally turn the page. After back-to-back offseasons where he has either swung and missed or just flat out stayed the course in terms of maintaining their salary cap space.
Co-hosts Doug Franz and Ron Wolfley asked McDonough a litany of topics on Friday morning, which included all of the following: Elfrid Payton, Marquese Chriss, Devin Booker, the 2018 Draft, #TheTimeline moniker, and much more.
Q: How many games do you have to see before you decide Payton is now in the core?
“Good question. You mentioned the restricted free agency, which obviously factors into it. We have been evaluating Elfrid for 4-5 years now going back to Louisiana-Lafayette. In the 2014 Draft, we had the 14th pick, and we ended up picking T.J. Warren who we were very happy with. Elfrid went a few picks ahead of us. We’ve followed him ever since then. Through the first three and a half years in Orlando, there have been some ups-and-downs, I think he’s improved his shooting. So, we’ll continue to evaluate him. We had a good feel for what we thought he could do. Coming in the door, you never know exactly how it is going to mesh and fit with the teammates. We thought on the surface it was just a big-time talent upgrade, just from the physical ability and it seems it’s lended itself pretty well so far. We’ll keep evaluating Elfrid. I think where we're projected to be in the draft in the top five or top seven, there are a number of talented players at different positions. Without getting into specifics, most of those guys are guards, either point guards or combo guards, or big men. I think if you look at our team, those are our two biggest team needs. We feel like the strength of our team at this point are the young wings, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson. Those guys obviously have a lot of talent, versatility. But yeah, we’ll be looking for an upgrade at the point guard and center slot long-term. Between the draft and free agency, we’ll try to fill both those holes as best we can.”
Q: Would you consider trading up in the draft for a transcendent talent (Deandre Ayton, etc.?)
“We certainly look at that. That’s part of the reason we’ve accumulated so many assets with picks and young players. In addition to our own picks, we have a first round pick coming from Miami that’s right on the border of the lottery today, I think it’s the 15th pick as of today. We have Milwaukee’s first that’s more likely to convey next year or the year after. Then, we have a very valuable pick from Miami that’s completely unprotected in 2021. We look at all of that. If we thought one guy eas head and shoulders above the rest, personally I feel like there are a number of good players in this draft. I know who you’re referencing (Ayton). We’re not opposed to that. We’ve been I think patient, maybe patient to a fault with our assets, young players, and picks. I think we’re waiting for that one special player to cash it in on whether that be in the draft or potentially via trade in a big trade package.”
Q: Are we approaching the time where you will push all your chips into the table and make a big move?
“At the right time, I think we will. That may be this summer. That may be in June or July at around the draft or in free agency. We’ve certainly patiently built for that. We wanted to come out of this (rebuild) with a few core pieces to build around. Certainly, Devin Booker has established himself as the main pillar. We’ll see if guys like T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, maybe Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss emerge. Maybe Elfrid Payton can emerge as a core piece to build around. We’re one of five or six teams with a significant amount of cap space this summer. And I think to your earlier question, part of that is why we’re taking some bad losses is because over the last few summers when teams spent money like crazy like the salary cap was going to continue to rise forever, we were patient and disciplined and didn’t really do that. And that was hard, to be honest with you. It’s easier to throw a bunch of money around and say ‘We’ll figure it out down the road.’ We didn’t do that. We said alright we’ll bring in a few more young guys at a lower cost and give ourselves the flexibility down the road when Devin Booker and T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson these guys are ready to win at a higher level when they have more experience. So, that part of it is hard. At the same time, I think you’ll see in June, and especially in July in free agency, when you look at the available cap space around the league there’s not a whole lot out there. There are a number of good players who will be available and I think it’s good from the team perspective, it’s probably not great from the players perspective because a lot of teams spent themselves out the past couple of years. We didn’t do that, so I think and hope it will be a buyer’s market this summer and we’ll be in a good position to add to our young core and take the next step.”
Q: Is there any thought of speeding up #TheTimeline because of Devin Booker’s emergence + being eligible for max contract extension this upcoming summer
“Regardless of whether he signs that (max extension) or not, he has next year, the 2018-2019 season, under contract. In the following summer in 2019, he’s again eligible for an extension and then he’s also a restricted free agent. I think people are getting a little bit ahead of themselves on that. I understand given his talent level and his age and that he’s played so well. Devin likes being in Phoenix. He loves being a member of this community. He’s very close with a lot of his teammates. He and I have a good relationship. He has a great relationship with Robert Sarver, our owner. We view Devin as a core piece and we’ll talk to him this summer about the possibility of an extension, so I think it’s not necessarily his age or his contract status. I think more than anything, it’s the fact that he’s a really good player who deserves better players around him and we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen this upcoming offseason.”
I only transcribed the big four points I took away from Newsmakers Week 2018 with McDonough, but you can check out the full 20+ minute interview below.